On Sunday, AMC's Breaking Bad finally picked up where it left off and delivered a mid-season premiere for the ages. I'm not too inclined to hyperbole, but I'm pretty sure that the episode shattered all expectations and blew at least a few minds out there in TV land.
And apparently, expectations weren't all that it shattered. The premiere episode (season 5, episode 9) broke its own viewership records - both in terms of piracy and traditional ratings.
According to torrenting figures obtained by TorrentFreak, 80,000 people were sharing the premiere episode of Breaking Bad just hours after it aired. In 12 hours, that number had jumped to 500,000. The figures are on a pace to break the show's previous torrenting record of 2,580,000 active downloads that it set last year.
Even with that example of massive piracy, Breaking Bad is still pretty far behind the levels seen by HBO's Game of Thrones, which was crowned most-pirated show of the year.
What's interesting about the regional breakdown for the highest levels of Breaking Bad piracy is that they occur in regions where the show was initially available - or premiered on a subscription streaming platform within 24 hours of its original premiere. The highest level of piracy for the show came from Australia, where viewers could have seen it via a pay TV network. The next two countries with the highest rate of piracy for the episode were the U.S. and Canada - both with traditional means for viewing.
Finally, the U.K. came in fourth - even though Netflix in the U.K. opened up the episode just 24 hours after it premiered in the U.S. Apparently, many fans in the U.K. either don't subscribe to Netflix or couldn't wait for 24 hours to see what the entire internet was buzzing about.
And as a true Breaking Bad super-fanatic, I can't really say that I blame them. Why wait for some imposed delay when you can watch it immediately with a click of your mouse?
The torrenting data shows that 16% of all downloading of the Breaking Bad mid-season premiere came from the U.S. - a pretty substantial chunk. But if you think that a high volume of downloads somehow negatively affected the show's ratings, or at least signifies that less people chose to watch it via traditional means - tread lightly.
In fact, traditional ratings for the premiere were off the charts.
Sunday's episode delivered 5.9 million viewers, which is not only the most int he history of the series but it more than doubled the ratings for the season 5 premiere.
“We are so pleased and gratified by viewer response to a historic four-premiere weekend on AMC,” said AMC President and GM Charlie Collier. “For Breaking Bad to continue to deliver record-setting ratings in its fifth and final season is remarkable."
Remarkable, sure. But not at all surprising. With each subsequent season, buzz for the show continued to grow. It simply looks like everyone has caught up by now, and an anxious fanbase now awaits the fate of Walt, Jesse, and Hank, and the rest of the Whites.
If you happened to miss Sunday's episode, well, shame on you. But you can rectify your gross error and watch it online, for free, on AMC.com. It's important to note that this option won't last forever, and AMC doesn't plan on doing this with future episodes.